2020 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

by Jacob Dunne
2020 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

Welcome to the 2020 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview. We are now on day two of Fantasy Six Pack’s Position Preview series! Hopefully, everyone has read the amazing catcher preview we posted.

The first base position was a powerhouse in 2019, averaging 28 home runs per 162 games. That was two home runs more than the second leading position (third base). This year, first base is loaded with talent at the top of the rankings, but overall depth is a concern. With more teams opting to platoon the position, first base isn't as deep as it once was.

Once the top first basemen are off the board, you can expect a steep drop off in production. The top first baseman all give you elite power without sacrificing your batting average, but as it gets deeper into your draft, it gets considerably tougher to find players that can give you both power and average.

Don’t panic if you aren’t able to secure a top-flight first baseman on your fantasy squad. Despite the first base position not being as deep as it once was, there are still viable options in the middle-to-late rounds that can make a positive impact for your fantasy squad. Let’s dive in.

2020 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

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Can Cody Bellinger repeat his 2019 MVP performance?

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In case you forgot, here were Cody Bellinger’s stats from last year: .305 BA, 121 R, 47 HR, 115 RBI, and 15 SB with a .406 OBP and .629 SLG. WOW! He rewarded those fantasy owners who took him in the 2nd/3rd round of fantasy drafts in 2019. I don’t expect a repeat performance of those gaudy numbers, but I think he comes close.

Remember, Bellinger won’t turn 25 until July and he is the centerpiece of a loaded Dodgers lineup. Last year, he batted cleanup behind fellow sluggers Pederson, Muncy, and Turner. As long as he continues to bat cleanup in 2020, he should have plenty of opportunities to produce strong RBI numbers.

Bellinger is consistently being drafted in the top half of the 1st round, which is the perfect spot for him. Bellinger should be the next pick after Yelich, Acuna Jr, and Trout are off the board. He qualifies at both 1B and OF, which makes him that much more valuable. He is worthy of a Top-5 selection.

Is Pete Alonso worthy of a Top 20 pick?

Pete Alonso broke the rookie home run record last season by hitting 53 home runs, which was one more than the previous record-holder Aaron Judge (52). Alonso also won the 2019 Rookie of the Year award receiving 29/30 first-place votes. He showed the world why he was a top prospect heading into the 2019 season.

At the beginning of last season, there was some level of concern on how long it would take Alonso to adjust to major league pitching. Alonso silenced those concerns by keeping his strikeout rate at a decent level (26.4%) proving that he deserved the promotion. His plate discipline was also a welcomed sight (10.4 walks rate).

A slugger who can blast home runs while keeping his strikeout rate down and walk rate up is a rare find. Keep in mind, Alonso does not steal bases. What you’re getting from him is elite production in three categories (Home Runs, RBI, R).

Alonso’s current ADP is 29 (middle of the 3rd), which would be a steal. Alonso is as safe as an early-round pick as they come. He's a near-lock to have a 40-plus home run and 110-plus RBI season, which are the bankable numbers I want on my fantasy team. If he can raise his BA from .260 to .275, he will justify a Top 20 selection.

Can Rhys Hoskins Bounce Back?

There was a ton of hype surrounding Rhys Hoskins heading into the 2019 season. He was coming off of a season where he had hit 34 HR and 96 RBI at 25 years old. The expectation was that he could only get better from there, but this wasn’t the case.

Hoskins finished the 2019 season with 29 HR, 85 RBI, and a .226 AVG. The home run total wasn’t bad, but the expectation was that he would hit the 40 home run plateau. Instead of improving during his age-26 season, Hoskins saw most of his numbers regress.

His runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, and average all regressed from 2018 to 2019. The only stat that went up was his walk rate (16.5%) and OBP. Coming into the 2020 season, I don’t see Hoskins improving.

On draft day, I wouldn’t look his way until the 10th round or later. His 109 ADP suggests that most people think last year was an outlier. Although he is only 26 years old, he may have peaked during his 2018 breakout campaign. I would only consider drafting him if he fell to the 11th-12th round. His current 8th round ADP is too rich for my blood.

Was Josh Bell’s breakout season a fluke?

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Bell had a first half for the ages. In the first half of the 2019 season, Bell hit 27 HR and 84 RBI with a .302 batting average. He was deservingly elected to his first MLB All-Star Game.

Unfortunately, Bell’s second half wasn’t as impressive. He hit 10 HR and 32 RBI with a .233 batting average. Not only did he regress, but he missed the last couple of weeks because of a groin injury, which may have played a part in his late-season struggles.

His overall numbers were very impressive as Bell hit 37 home runs and 116 RBI while hitting .277. Despite the poor second half from Bell, I believe the power is real.

His current ADP is 88 (middle of the 7th), which tells me that people do not believe his numbers from last season are sustainable. Heading into his age-27 season, I expect Bell to hit 30-plus home runs with 100-plus RBI, which would be a steal in the 7th round. Don't be afraid to pull the trigger on the hard-hitting first baseman in round 5 or 6.

Players on the Rise

Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
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It was the perfect storm of injuries that accelerated the former first-round pick Michael Chavis’ promotion to the majors last season. The Red Sox always liked his bat, but there was no room for him because of a roadblock at his natural positions of third and second base.

However, with Steve Pearce and Dustin Pedroia going down early, there was a need for him to fill multiple roles in the infield. The rookie infielder exploded onto the scene with a double in his first career at-bat. He won the AL Rookie of the Month award for May and was in serious contention for AL Rookie of the Year.

In 347 AB, Chavis produced 18 home runs and 58 RBI with a slashing line of .254/.322/.444. If Chavis can raise his batting average (.254) and limit his strikeouts (127), he could take a huge leap as the primary first baseman for the Red Sox. His current ADP has him being taken in the 20th round (244), but I would look his way in the 13th-14th round as an upside pick.

Luke Voit, New York Yankees

Injuries forced Voit into an everyday role in 2019 once Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge went down early with injuries. He proved to be up to the task by hitting 17 home runs and 50 RBI with a .280 batting average in the first half. Voit was a much-needed source of power for the Yankees while Judge and Stanton were on the sidelines.

He came back down to earth in the second half only hitting four home runs and 12 RBI with a .228 batting average. Despite the rough second half, Voit had a respectable year playing full time for the first time in his career. Manager Aaron Boone has already stated that he expects Luke Voit to be the Yankees’ everyday first baseman.

Voit is coming into 2020 as the unquestioned starter for the first time in his career. Hitting behind the likes of Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez will only boost his RBI total. At age 28, he is coming into his own and I expect Voit to hit somewhere between 25-30 home runs, which would be an incredible value at his current ADP of 189.

Players on the Decline

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

If you plan on drafting Joc Pederson, you better have plenty of depth on your bench. Over the past 3 seasons, Pederson has averaged only 54 total plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.

I believe last season’s gaudy home run total (36) was a fluke. The previous two seasons before his breakout 2019 campaign saw him hit 36 home runs combined. While Pederson possesses solid power, his batting average won't help you win your week.

He has never averaged over .250 in his career, and I don't expect that to change heading into his seventh season.

I wouldn't completely avoid Pederson in your upcoming drafts. If he falls to you later in your drafts, he could provide power numbers useful to your fantasy team. His current ADP has him being taken around the 17th round (208), but even that is a bit of a stretch.

I'd look his way no earlier than the 23rd round (265). He has value as a streaming option during the weeks where the Dodgers face a right-handed heavy pitching slate, but that's about it.

Yandy Diaz, Tampa Bay Rays

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After only hitting one home run in his first two seasons in the major leagues, Yandy Diaz hit 14 home runs in just 307 at-bats for the Rays in 2019. What changed?

Diaz explained his spike in home runs by claiming that he followed through with his swing instead of keeping his top wrist down and cutting down on his swing. A simple tweak in his swing made all the difference. In 2019, Diaz got the chance to start for the Rays and he never looked back.

He hit 14 home runs and 38 RBI while averaging .263 with a .340 OBP. Unfortunately, injuries cut Diaz's breakout year short. Diaz missed the final two months of the season because of a fracture in his left foot. Throughout his short career, he has dealt with hand, hamstring, and foot injuries.

Even though he's looking at an everyday role coming into the 2020 season, I expect his leash to be short due to the incredible depth that the Rays possess. I'm comfortable taking a flier on him with one of my last few picks, but nothing higher.

Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals drafted Dozier in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. Dozier spent the next seven years in the minor leagues before being called up in 2018 at 26 years old. In his first stint in the major leagues, he hit 11 home runs and 34 RBI with a .229 batting average in 362 at-bats.

For a lack of other options, Dozier kept his starting role going into the 2019 season. He broke out to the tune of 26 home runs and 84 RBI with a .279 batting average in 523 at-bats. He could have had even more if not for an 18-game absence because of a sore oblique.

Despite his 2019 breakout season, I expect a slight regression going into his age-28 season. I wouldn’t overreact and pay a high price for an older player with a poor track record. If you’re willing to wait until the middle-late rounds, he could be a cheap source of power for your fantasy team. I expect him to hit somewhere between 20-25 home runs with his batting average hovering around .250.

Players on the Horizon

Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks

Walker took over the starting duties at first base following the departure of All-Star Paul Goldschmidt. He did not disappoint.

In Walker's first full season as a starter, he hit 29 home runs, 73 RBI, and eight stolen bases with a .259 AVG. He was a consistent source of power all year, hitting 17 home runs in the first half and 12 home runs in the second half. He even stole eight bases to put an exclamation on his breakout season.

At his current ADP of 207, Walker is a potential steal. He is the unquestioned starting first baseman for the Diamondbacks who should see 500-plus plate appearances. At age 28, he has the opportunity and skill set to outperform last year's breakout campaign. Don't be afraid to look his way in the 10th-11th round (120-130 ADP).

Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins

Cooper was one of the Marlin's best hitters last season. Despite missing the first few weeks of the season, Cooper still hit 15 home runs and 50 RBI with a .281 batting average.

Cooper spent the first year of his career as a productive platoon player for the Yankees before being traded to the Marlins in 2017. He spent 2018 as a platoon player for the Marlins before settling into a near-everyday role for the Marlins in 2019. Cooper projects to hit in the heart of the Marlins lineup, which would give him a consistent fantasy floor.

At his current ADP of 399, Cooper makes for a solid last pick flier in your draft. He becomes even more valuable if your team needs a batting average boost. He carries some injury risk having spent time on the shelf over the past three years, but don't let that deter you from drafting him. If Cooper goes undrafted, put him on your watch list and be ready to pounce if he catches fire at the beginning of the season.

Players to Avoid

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
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How the mighty have fallen. Remember the days when Votto was a perennial home run, RBI, XBH, and average threat?

In 2017, Votto hit 36 home runs and 100 RBI. Since then, Votto has averaged 13.5 home runs and 57 RBI over his last two seasons. His regression has now become a trend, and I don't see his stats improving heading into his 14th year in the league.

Going into his age-36 season, I expect his numbers to look identical to last year (15 home runs, 50 RBI with a .275 batting average). I'm passing on his current ADP of 261. I'll let someone else draft him and be disappointed by his inevitable lack of production.

Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

After hitting 24 home runs and 86 RBI for the Phillies in 2018, Santana returned to the Indians and had an incredible bounce-back season. Santana hit 34 home runs and 93 RBI while averaging .281 with a .397 OBP. He crushed his original ADP of 199 and returned early-round value.

Despite the incredible bounce-back season had by Santana, I don't expect it to become a trend. Before last season, Santana had never hit above a .268 average in his career or had an OBP higher than .377. Santana defied all odds by having a breakout season at 33 years old. Heading into his age-34 season, I expect his numbers to dip considerably.

If Santana can stay healthy, his 2020 numbers should mirror his career averages of 20 home runs and 80 RBI with a .250 batting average. His current ADP is hovering around 150, which is a little too high. I wouldn't overreact to an older player coming off a breakout season. It's all downhill from here.

Check out the rest of the 2020 Fantasy Baseball coverage to help win your leagues.

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Shawnuel February 4, 2020 - 1:43 pm

Although not nearly as deep as it used to be I noticed the omission of 2 of my favorite picks for 2020. Matt Olson and Max Muncy. I think Olson, health permitting, will end up top 2 among first basemen at the end of the season. Muncy is solid at first alone but carries 3 position eligibility. And he may be able to steal 5-8 bases as well. Love these two.

Jacob Dunne February 4, 2020 - 2:45 pm

Those are GREAT picks! Both Olson and Muncy didn’t fit the criteria of this article, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them. They will both provide a ton of power in 2020 albeit with batting averages hovering around .260ish.

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